Those gentle voices I hear, explain it all with a sigh …

Rest assured, I waited until both my kids were 21 before candidly responding to their questions about this topic. In looking back I’m neither proud nor ashamed. I’m in no position to moralize, except to say that it made me a scofflaw (imagine the sniggers that have accompanied that statement) and I do my best not to rationalize, except to say that it was a different era.

And so I dabbled recreationally with: Phenylalanine, Benzoylmethylecgonine, Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, Tetrahydrocannabinol and other stimulants, which long before leaving college I also left behind, because they made me too self-conscious, or diminished my sense of control, or because the euphoric effect never outweighed the after effect, or – especially – because they didn’t help my grade point average.

Occasionally certain songs will bring me back to those callow, capricious days, such as this track from The Moody Blues’ first concept album, Days of Future Past, released in 1967. Written by Justin Hayward at a time when he was experimenting with LSD, it strikes me as an accurate depiction of what it was like. More baroque than cosmic in nature (at least for me), you find yourself being pulled along, while looking for an answer to some imponderable question or riddle. I even wrote about it once *as excerpted from an old copy of The Daily Free Press below.

Although I never experienced a “bad trip,” I did pay in other ways. It invariably took a couple of days to recover and more than once I ran into somebody I knew while in an embarrassingly inexplicable state. Then, some years later, there was the lost job opportunity with a certain government agency. The interview proceeded swimmingly until, with a polygraph in the offing, I answered truthfully when asked if I’d ever taken hallucinogens (they were very specific). Although it ended politely, the interview was over as quickly as you can say flashback.

Still flashback free, I’m now exceedingly grateful for the way things have gone. And I certainly don’t believe that I’d be a better man had I not (to steal a Nilsson line) “done what I did when I was a kid” … a brighter man perhaps, but not a better one.

 Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?)

 Tuesday, afternoon,

I’m just beginning to see,

Now I’m on my way,

It doesn’t matter to me,

Chasing the clouds away.

Something, calls to me,

The trees are drawing me near,

I’ve got to find out why

Those gentle voices I hear

Explain it all with a sigh.

I’m looking at myself, reflections of my mind,

It’s just the kind of day to leave myself behind,

So gently swaying thru the fairy-land of love,

If you’ll just come with me and see the beauty of

Tuesday afternoon.

Tuesday afternoon.

 Tuesday, afternoon,

I’m just beginning to see,

Now I’m on my way,

It doesn’t matter to me,

Chasing the clouds away.

Something, calls to me,

The trees are drawing me near,

I’ve got to find out why

Those gentle voices I hear

Explain it all with a sigh.

*January 1978 – The initial reaction comes about an hour after ingestion, when a squirrel on a tree starts to spin like a clock before scurrying on its way. It’s winter in Boston, and the Lysergic Acid Diethylamide that came across the river from MIT is said to be the best in the east. Meandering down Commonwealth Avenue the Prudential Building illuminates the gray sky at dusk. Like the Emerald City, it attracts.

And lo, an enormous green scuttle-bug with a big ‘T’ rumbles up. Perhaps the driver has pulled the reigns too tight because the great creature squeals as it slides to a stop. Then, much like Jonah and the Whale, one stumbles inside. Again the pained beast squeals and bucks with a vengeance, while those not seated tumble deeper into its bowels as it rumbles down the avenue. It’s actually kind of hilarious, but no one else laughs.

Eventually it descends into a murky catacomb and proceeds underground, stopping at well-lit caverns along the way with the words KENMORE then AUDITORIUM painted on their walls. By now a warm glow emanates from inside the skull and the metal handrail feels like running water ‘neath clutching fingers. Surrounded by voices that seem to be spoken through old-time megaphones, one wonders if this is all a movie.

The subterranean zoon rumbles through the darkness, stopping next at COPLEY, where spacemen bundled in survival jackets shuffle off and, amidst their verbal echoes, others shuffle on. It’s cramped and stuffy by the time ARLINGTON comes into view, and it’s now apparent that the stop for OZ must be on another line. Suddenly there’s an urge to walk … no … march … through the crowd, down the platform, up the stairs and out into the frigid night air.

Here looms the Public Gardens, where George Washington sits atop a sculpted horse. The horse wants a sugar cube but a snowball thrown into its open mouth is the best one can do before marching on to Beacon Hill. When the sidewalk begins to ripple there’s cause for alarm and people begin to stare. But there’s money for a cab … except that what appears to be a taxi is actually a police car, which thankfully doesn’t stop as the hand that hails is quickly shoved into a pocket.

Then visual forms become a blur, city sounds a whir, and passing cars become streaks that go whoosh. Green streaks, blue streaks, yellow streaks trail by, while leafless tree branches become oscillating genie fingers and sights, sounds, smells and sensations blend together. Total disorientation leads to aimless ambulation … until some time later when some semblance of familiarity arises on the Esplanade by river. In the distance the Citgo sign flashes over Kenmore Square. Beyond is the warmth and comfort of home. Drifting along, memories and plans sporadically throb through the mind, and problems work themselves out.

A rest at the BU boat dock offers an opportunity to look back at the “Hub of the Universe” brilliantly lit like a birthday cake. Tears well up with the notion that thousands are living their lives unaware that someone out here is watching.

Home at last. Greeted by friends. The rest of the night is spent listening for new symbolism in old rock songs on the turntable. Sleep comes at dawn.

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